tea-time in Kashmir

Our lovely creative lady at Lamb To Slaughter, Ali Gunning – reports on her trip to the enchanting Kashmir.

I’ve just been to Kashmir, the northernmost part of India famed for it’s lakes, houseboats and floating flower gardens. The sign at Dal Ghat says “welcome to heaven” and I would agree with that. Sadly many travellers have been put off by past troubles, but find someone who’s been and I bet they will tell you it’s the most beautiful part of India they’ve seen.

The land-scope varies between snowy alpine resorts and hot dry plains, to lush green valleys and rocky temple towns. The culture is equally diverse with Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Sufi influences.

Although chai is india’s national drink, there are many variations on the recipe as you travel through her cities and states: the balance of spices and flavours changing along with the terrain, dialect and smiling faces. On trains it’s served in baby terracotta pots.

In Kashmir, which feels, and feels itself to be, a very separate place, they avoid the milky version of chai altogether and proudly serve you a Kashmiri Kalwa (pronounced like cava), using prized local products; fruits and spices.

Kalwa (or Khewa) also has it’s variations, but is essentially a take on:

Dark green tea (small amount ie 1tsp per pot)

Green cardoman

Cinnamon sticks

Little sugar

Add boiled water and allow to brew

Plus: you can add a strand or two of saffron. Some people say it does little but add golden colour but I think it adds something to the aroma of the tea…

In the mountains of gulmarg they added lots of raisins…

By dal lake it was fresh ginger and barely any tea leaves

Many chai stalls finely crush some almonds in the glass before pouring in the tea (this is amazing)

Like chai, experimenting with how long you brew the tea and spices will change the flavour.

Traditionally served with Kashmiri flat bread